We are pleased to introduce a new blog category, “Thai Voices”! In this category of posts, we’ll be hearing from the leaders facing the issues on the ground in Thailand. We hope you will enjoy the opportunity to hear their perspective, which hopefully will help provide some deeper insight into the subtleties and complexities of the situations that arise. In today’s post, we will hear from Tawee Donchai, our Thailand Director.
When we face problems, we learn to start breaking down the complexity of the issue by asking questions related to the problem. This helps us break the problem down into smaller pieces that we can then later analyze in an attempt to find answers. Trying to find solutions to a problem isn’t just about trying to solve the problem as whole; it’s also about how to ask the right question.
Kids can mess up their lives, sometimes by their own intentions, sometimes because others have misled them. But we find that the questions people in the village tend to ask are merely a reflection of their own limited perspective. Most questions are really an attempt to induce shame and punishment. These types of questions only put our students down instead of helping them overcome the difficulties they face daily.
Over the last few months, we have learned that one of our young students got pregnant and decided to keep the baby. In order to fulfill her role as a teen mother, she has to put her education on hold and care for her newborn child. We think she has made a brave choice and we want to support her as she must face not only the care of her baby as single mom, but also the criticism and judgment placed on her by her entire community.
Most people react to her situation with questions like:
Why did you do that?
Don’t you care about your future?
Why don’t you try harder?
Why you don’t value the opportunity given to you?
And they ask us:
Why is SOLD still supporting her?
Why don’t you cut her from the program?
Why do you still give her another chance?
Is SOLD going to punish her?
Why hasn’t SOLD punished her yet?
And worse, parents use her story to caution their own children, putting her down as a bad example.
These questions aren’t going to help. They only serve to demean her and drive her to the most vulnerable situation: “At RISK”. While one of our requirements for our scholarship students is to be a role model for other students, we also need to understand and remember that our larger mission is to save these kids from being trafficked.
If we continue to help a student who has messed up more than once, more than twice, more than even 10 times, but the student refuses to give up and just keeps trying and manages not to become a victim of trafficking, then I believe that we are still on the right track.
If, on the other hand, our top student decides to take a side job as a prostitute to earn money to buy a cell phone or brand name items, then I will think we have failed in our mission.
To that end, these are the questions we should be asking ourselves:
How can we save her from being “At RISK”?
Is taking away her scholarship going to put her in a better place?
Is shaming her for what she has done going to help?
What good will come from punishing her?
Is punishing her the only option?
What would be most helpful from the community are questions like:
What can we do to help her?
Does she have enough money or food?
Are the baby and mom healthy?
What else we could have done better?
After all, what more sustainable approach is there to tackling social problems? We believe in encouraging all participants to ask better questions which will put us on the path to better solutions, positive solutions that will lift up life instead of putting one another down. Solutions that involve combating the issue together as a community instead of isolating the victim through shame and guilt. These are sustainable ways to solve social problems through understanding and love for one another.
— Tawee Donchai